Wisconsin students to take scaled-back standardized tests

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin students will take a scaled-back version of a new kind of standardized test next month.

The online test is expected to be more rigorous than the traditional pencil-and-paper exam it's replacing. But the Wisconsin State Journal reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/1upgjsl ) that a technical glitch means school districts will get a less advanced version instead of a more complex system that isn't working properly.

As a result, the Department of Public Instruction said it won't pay the full $11.1 million cost and it will negotiate a new price with the test vendor and creators. The state has paid about $1.2 million so far.

The Smarter Balanced test, also known as The Badger Exam, is linked to the Common Core State Standards and tests students in third through eighth grades in math and English.

The test is intended to be adaptive — able to adjust the difficulty of the questions based on how the test taker answered previous questions. But an adaptive test requires thousands of questions to be available. And Wisconsin's test builders have found some errors in the data associated with the questions, which includes answers and how the answers get scored.

So the department decided to give school districts a non-adaptive test, which offers hundreds of questions instead. Between now and the March 30 test window start date, DPI officials will comb through the questions to make sure everything is accurate, said Troy Couillard, DPI assessment director.

The DPI notified school districts Wednesday that they'll get the scaled-back version. Couillard said the test will still be online, interactive and look just as schools expect.

Brad Carl, associate director at the Value-Added Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said an adaptive test more accurately measures a student's abilities — especially high-performing and low-performing students.

"The questions get harder until the students are not able to answer correctly, and it levels back down until it finds the level where the student is at," Monona Grove School District Superintendent Dan Olson said. "You get a truer indication of the knowledge level of that student."


Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj

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